Kenny MacAskill: How Scottish independence – not federalism – offers hope for England’s left

Independence will act as a catalyst for radical change for England, writes Kenny MacAskill MP.

As independence consolidates its lead in the polls, the bugle call of federalism’s blown once more. General Gordon Brown again leads the charge to save the union. But is it what’s wanted in Scotland – and wouldn’t Scottish independence be of benefit to England?

Federalism could have been on the 2014 ballot but was kept off by David Cameron, convinced he’d crush the SNP and the cause of independence once and for all.

Little was said by Brown or Labour to insist that it be added. Instead, they sided with the Tories in the Better Together campaign and continue to pay the price for treachery with the Scottish working-class.

The vanishing Vow

The only time federalism reared its head was in the final few days, when panic beset the British ranks and “the vow” was concocted by Cameron, Miliband, and Clegg. That along with the war cries of General Brown proclaimed a No vote would deliver the promised federal land.

Instead, it was to be English votes for English laws, with only a few more baubles devolved. The “pooling and sharing” that Scotland was also assured was the benefit of staying, was supplanted by the “robbing and pillaging” of public assets by a kleptocracy. As a result, trust and faith have been lost and further pledges of federalism just don’t wash.

Ship has sailed

But even if taken as the real deal this time then it will encompass a long delay. The plans are predicated on devolution also taking place in England. Reform there is undeniably a good thing and long overdue but as John Prescott discovered, never mind with added factors such as a review of an unelected House of Lords, it’s going to take time.

It will almost certainly require a constitutional commission or some such body.  Scotland simply isn’t able or willing to wait on the years of deliberation or debate that will follow.

So, that ship has sailed and in any event it’s incapable of charting a way through the major political storms that beckon. EU membership, Trident and a whole raft of other issues would threaten stability even with a change in administration south of the border.

Surely, it’s better to allow both countries to steer their own course. With Scottish independence the countries will remain close, sharing a common island and through family, friendship, and continued common interest.

Radical change for England

Scottish independence, though, also offers opportunities for England. There are stirrings for radical constitutional change south of the border. Areas, and not just in the north, have been neglected, if not left to rot. The voice of elected mayors speaking out and acting for their communities has been important and shows what could come about with constitutional reform.

But how to achieve that radical change is the million-dollar question? There’s no real driver from within a majority Tory government, the two-party system militates against agreed reform and any incoming radical administration faces immediate demands for action and constitutional reform won’t be the first priority. That the latest bugle call came from Labour lords and ladies, generations on from a pledge to sweep that anachronistic institution away, says it all.  

Normally, such national re-appraisement in post Empire lands follows either through defeat in war or revolution. That isn’t going to happen and even the shock waves of Brexit won’t suffice, and arguably fuel delusions of a new Golden Age for Britain. Scottish independence would be the catalyst for a reassessment of what is England, and indeed Wales. Such a shock to the psyche’s badly needed.

Inequality is widening

England needs to come to terms with being England and abandon the delusion of restored empire or a fixation on past conflicts. Those who peddle that myth and glory in British exceptionalism are the same elite who are impoverishing the English people. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and the consequences of Brexit threaten the gains of recent generations. Breaking that mythology is essential for England to go forward.

For England isn’t that kleptocracy that surrounds Johnson and his sponsors. The majority don’t vote Tory. There’s a rich cultural heritage, a diverse people and welcoming land, along with the rule of law and other huge contributions to humanity. Let that flourish, not the delusions of British Empire.

Scottish independence would result in England rediscovering itself, finding much to be proud of and allowing it to jettison that self-serving British elite exploiting them. It’s independence not federalism that delivers that.

Kenny MacAskill is SNP MP for East Lothian.

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